Oh, peeing in the pool: We all think it’s gross, and yet most (if not all) of us have done it at least once — Olympic swimmers (ahem, Ryan Lochte) included. But that leads us to a pretty disturbing question … How much of the pool water is actually urine?
Well, while our (equally disturbing) response to that question would be a little dry heaving, a couple defeated shrugs, and, finally, a triumphant cannonball off the diving board, a team of Canadian researchers has come up with a much more useful answer.
To conduct the March 2017 study, the University of Alberta team first had to figure out how they’d identify urine in pool water. The researchers sought out a compound that would be consistently present in our urine and ultimately settled on acesulfame potassium (ACE), a type of artificial sweetener that’s found in a wide variety of products and that our bodies can’t break down, which means we excrete it via our urine.
Then, for three weeks, the researchers monitored the levels of ACE in two public pools. One pool, which held 110,000 gallons of water, had almost 8 gallons of urine released into it over the course of the three weeks — the other pool, which held 220,000 gallons of water, had almost 20 gallons of urine released into it.
They also measured the levels of ACE in 250 samples from 31 other pools and hot tubs, which were found to contain an average of 570 times more pee than tap water. So that’s not great.
Now here’s the extra uplifting part: The researchers say that the “nitrogenous compounds” in our urine react with chlorine in a way that generates “disinfection byproducts,” aka substances that can cause eye irritation and respiratory problems.
But there isn’t really a quick ‘n’ easy way to test for pee in pools, so unless you literally watch the surrounding swimmers, erm, do their thing, you probably won’t know how pee-filled a pool really is — which is why the study authors are advocating for more public discussion about proper pool hygiene habits.
“The best way to discourage people from urinating in pools is public education regarding appropriate swimming hygiene practices,” lead study author Lindsay Blackstock, a PhD student at the University of Alberta, told ResearchGate.
“We recommend that all pool users should rinse off excess personal care products in the provided showers before entering public pools. Additionally, we should all be considerate of others and make sure to exit the pool to use the restroom.”
So … there you have it.
From: Good Housekeeping US